How Do You Deal with Poor Staff Performance?

What do you do when you first think that one of your members of staff isn’t doing as well as you would like them to?

Whatever you do, don’t ignore it and just hope that the situation will improve!

For some tips on how to deal with the early stages of poor performance, watch this short video.

If you still have any questions about how to help your staff to perform better, or you have a more difficult situation to deal with, call us 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk for some confidential advice.

Poor Performance – Can You Prove It?

Sometimes as a manager you need to deliver bad news or negative feedback to a member of your staff. You might need to pick them up on an issue of performance that you’re not happy with, or where they are not meeting your standards.

This is not a comfortable thing to do. You need to be quite assertive about it, to be taken seriously, so that your member of staff doesn’t just argue with you! To help you discuss the issue in the right way, you need evidence of the poor performance. You have to be able to show your team member what they’ve been doing wrong or below standard. Just telling them that they’re not doing what you want them to do, won’t have any impact, if you can’t prove it.

You need to collect the evidence, so your team member can really understand what they’ve done wrong and how you want them to change. It’s not about collecting evidence just to use against someone – you really need it in order to get the message across and to make a difference.

Is one of your team repeatedly late coming into work? If so, you need a recording system that shows them when they came it late and how often it happens. If your staff clock in and out every day, you have your system. If not, you need to look for another way of recording the time.

Does a member of your staff keep making errors in their work? How many times have they made a mistake and what was the result of it? Again, you need to create a way of recording the error rate and the consequences.

Do some of your clients repeatedly complain about one of your employees? If so, you need to keep all the emails or letters of complaint that you receive. When a customer complains over the phone, ask them if they would mind emailing you the details for your records, so that you improve the situation for them.

When you can show proof of poor performance, it is much easier to discuss the issue with the particular member of staff and, between you, work out what needs to be done in order to improve their performance.

We discussed the importance of collecting evidence at one of my interactive workshops. Click here to watch the short video and find out more.

Dealing with Bullying or Harassment at Work

Recently we looked at the case of one of my clients who had learnt about sexual harassment happening within their company. Click here to see that blog again, or if you missed it. Fortunately that case was successfully resolved, but if ever you need to go to the next stage with such a case, here is how you should deal with it.

Following investigatory meetings, which you must carry out, and assuming that you decide that there is a case to be answered, a formal disciplinary interview should be set up with the person accused of bullying or harassment. This should be done in writing, with your employee being given a full written account of the evidence gathered against them, including the evidence reported by any witnesses. Whether or not it will be appropriate to state the names of any witnesses will depend on the circumstances.

At the same time, the employee should be given notice to attend the interview and informed of their right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union official. It is essential to provide the accused employee with all the relevant facts at this stage, so that they have a proper opportunity to defend themselves when the interview takes place.

Ask and Listen

At the interview, you should ask open questions, i.e. those beginning with “what”, “which”, “why”, “how”, “where”, “when” and “who”, in order to get the employee’s side of the story. You should listen carefully to what they have to say, and take on board their explanations and any mitigating factors.

The purpose of the interview will be to establish whether or not there are proper grounds for taking disciplinary action against the employee and, if there are, what level of disciplinary action would be appropriate. This will depend on whether or not, following the interview, you have reasonable grounds for forming a genuine belief that incidents of harassment or bullying did in fact occur.

There is no need for you to have absolute proof of the employee’s ‘guilt’ in order to proceed with disciplinary action or dismissal, as long as you have, following a thorough investigation, formed a genuine and reasonable belief that incidents of bullying or harassment took place.

Deal with it Promptly

Depending on the seriousness of the behaviour, disciplinary action may range from a verbal warning to summary dismissal. In cases of mild harassment, for example a single incident that was based on a misunderstanding, or a series of minor incidents where an employee genuinely did not realise that there were causing offence, a sincere apology, together with an undertaking not to repeat the offending behaviour, may be appropriate.

If the outcome is a formal warning or dismissal, the employee should be granted the right of appeal against that decision, to someone who was not involved in either the investigation or the decision to impose the disciplinary sanction. If a warning is given, it should make it very clear that any further incidents of bullying or harassment of any kind will be viewed very seriously and will lead to further formal disciplinary action.

Both the employee who raised the complaint and the employee accused of bullying or harassment should be given written feedback on the outcome and any actions agreed once the proceedings have been concluded. Full confidential records should be kept of all complaints, all interviews conducted and the outcome of the proceedings.

The main aim of any formal action will be to make sure that the harassment or bullying stops immediately and does not recur. This means that you should treat any report of harassment or bullying seriously and deal with it immediately.

I hope that you never have to deal with a situation like this in your business. However, if you are worried about harassment or bullying – either a case that needs to be dealt with, or how to prevent it from happening – please contact me straight away by calling 0118 940 3032 or by clicking here to email me.

It’s Time to Bring Your Staff Handbook Up to Date

Many businesses experience a quiet time in July and August, when staff and customers are on holiday. If this happens in your business, you can use the extra time you have to make sure that you’re up to date with all things HR.

When did you last check that your Staff Handbook was in line with current Employment Law? Every time changes are made to Employment law – which is usually at least twice every year, in the Spring and again in the Autumn – your handbook will become a bit more out of date. So far this year we’ve seen a number of changes to maternity and paternity laws, including shared parental leave. Flexible working laws have changed, along with those relating to attending antenatal appointments.

So how do you keep up to date?

The Acas website at www.acas.org.uk is a good source of information. It lists all the recent Employment Law changes. You’ll need to look at all the changes that have been made and work out which apply to your business. Then you’ll need to find the relevant sections within your Staff Handbook and bring them up to date. You should do the same with any staff forms and processes that you use, to make sure that you’re fully legal.

Once you’ve updated your HR processes and policies, you need to think about how to introduce the changes to your existing members of staff. If you publish your Handbook in hard copy, you can reissue it – but don’t just print it out and leave it on a shelf next to the old one! Let your employees know which policies have been changed and that they should read the Handbook, so they can see how the changes could affect them.

If you have an Intranet within your business, put your new Handbook onto it and tell your staff about the sections and laws that have changed, so that they can read the relevant sections.

However you share your Handbook, you need to encourage your staff to read it. You could ask each employee to sign a form showing that they’ve read the new Handbook and have understood how the changes affect them. This also gives them the opportunity to ask you about anything they don’t understand.

If your handbook is more than three years old, it will be out of date and will need a bit of work; if it’s more than five years old it will be more of an antique and you might even need a brand new one!

Does updating your own Staff Handbook could sound like a rather daunting task? If so, do get in touch to talk to us about how we can do it for you. Call us on call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

 

 

Are You Allowed to Use an E-Cigarette at Work?

A smoking ban has been in place in the UK since July 2007, preventing anyone from smoking indoors at work premises and other enclosed spaces. The ban applies to all substances that can be smoked, including cigarettes, herbal cigarettes, cigars and pipes – involving the burning of any substance.

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes give off a vaporised water-based mist, but do not burn any substances. This means that, strictly speaking, they’re not covered by the smoking ban. The increased use of e-cigarettes has prompted a government debate, and it seems that there are now plans to make it illegal to sell them to under 18s, or to adults on their behalf. With the growing use of e-cigarettes, this could be a good time to re-assess your workplace rules on smoking.

Here we’ll give you our answers to some of the common questions we’re currently being asked.

 

Do we have to provide a separate area for e-smokers?

Employees who want to stop smoking by using e-cigarettes may complain about having to use the same designated smoking area as those smoking tobacco cigarettes. However, the law does not require you to provide any smoking area for your staff.

If you choose to designate an area for tobacco smokers, as most employers do, you must make sure that it is legally compliant. It can’t be enclosed and the smoke must not be able to enter the rest of the workplace. The same rules do not apply if you decide to provide an area for the use of e-cigarettes. You will just need to consider where you site this area in relation to any smoking area.

One particularly robust option is to prohibit any type of smoking altogether in your workplace.

 

Non-smokers are complaining about the vapour from e-cigarettes in the office – what should we do?

The law does not stop you from banning the use of e-cigarettes at work. If you want to do this, it is best to have a written policy in place, so that there is no confusion over what is, and what is not, allowed. Any smoke-free policy, whether it extends to e-cigarettes or not, should apply to staff of all levels without exception and even to third parties such as customers, visitors and contractors.

 

Some of my e-smoking staff have complained that they don’t get as many breaks as tobacco smokers. What should I do?

As an employer, you are not obliged to allow smoking breaks in addition to the usual work-day breaks, and there is increasing evidence that they disrupt productivity and hinder performance.

If this is a problem for your business, you might wish to implement a policy that prohibits additional smoking breaks during the working day. This means that employees can only use e-cigarettes or smoke during their usual breaks and outside working hours. Some employers ask e-smokers and smokers to make up any time spent on additional breaks during work hours, but the success of this very much depends on the workplace environment, industry and culture.

If you would like to implement a policy for dealing with e-cigarettes in your business, get in touch and we’ll talk about how to build it into your employment contracts. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

 

Holiday Commission Payments – The Verdict

Finally we have the decision about the calculation of commission payments.

This well publicised case was brought by Mr Lock, an employee of British Gas. He was paid a basic salary and commission based on the sales he made which represented, on average, over 60% of his take home pay.

British Gas paid holiday pay to Mr Lock based on his basic salary only, plus commission on sales he had earned prior to the holiday period. This resulted, in the weeks and months after the period of leave, in times when Mr Lock only received basic salary and not commission. This was because Mr Lock was not at work during the period of leave, did not make sales and did not generate any commission.

Mr Lock brought a claim against British Gas contending that his holiday pay should be based on basic salary and average commission.

The employment tribunal asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) whether employers should include commission when calculating holiday pay and both decided that Mr Lock should be paid holiday pay including overtime. Since the ECJ we have been awaiting for the employment tribunal to see how to give effect to the ECJ decision.

At the hearing Leicester employment tribunal made it clear that the case was not about whether the commission received by Mr Lock should be included because the ECJ had already decided that it should. The case was about whether the Working Time Regulations could be interpreted to give effect to the ECJ decision.

The employment tribunal concluded that it could by adding wording to the Working Time Regulations which requires employers with workers who have normal working hours but who receive commission or similar payments to calculate holiday pay as if their pay varied with the amount of work done. The effect is to require employers to calculate holiday pay based on an average of the previous 12 weeks’ pay.

The Next Steps

Not all commission payments will qualify and have to be taken into account. You should reconsider how you calculate holiday pay if you operate a similar commission scheme, as you may face a claim for back pay. Legislation was introduced to limit the impact of such claims by restricting back pay for two years for cases on or after 1 July 2015.

This decision relates only to the calculation of four week’s holiday and not the entire current statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks or any enhanced holiday. You should also check any contractual provisions. If you need any help calculating holiday pay for your employees, call us on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email us.

Improving Performance Through a Probation Period

Taking on new members of staff for a growing business can be a costly and time consuming process – especially if you get it wrong. Finding the best person for your business is important, and many people think that they can sit back and rest once their new recruit arrives on their first day. But that’s just the start of it!

This blog looks at how to give your new employee the best start with your business.

You worked hard on crafting the best Job Description for your new team member. The adverts went out and the applications came in. You spent time interviewing potential candidates to join your team. Finally you found them – the perfect person to work with you. They even turned up on their start date. What happens next?

If you think you can just sit back and expect your new recruit to get on with their job and perform as you expect them to – with no input from you – you’ll be disappointed.

The first thing to do – even before a new employee joins you – is to decide on the length of their probation period. This could be between three and six months, depending on the type of work being done. The probation period is your chance to start assessing your new recruit; it’s their time to find their feet and get used to their new role. It is a vital tool in measuring the performance of a new employee.

Next you need to plan when you’re going to review their performance, during the probation period. Planning a review halfway through is a good idea – don’t leave it until the end. This allows you to take action if you’re in any doubt about their ability to do the job for which you have employed them. Their performance will only get better if you do something about it. They might not have understood the job that you need them to do, so this is the time to go over what you expect from them. It’s also a good time for them to air any concerns they might have about their future with you.

You should next plan to review the performance of your new recruit before the end of the probation period. This could be after five months, if the probation is six months in length. This gives you time to properly review their performance and plan any action that needs to be taken – such as training or development. This will put you in the best position to be able to confirm whether or not your new recruit will be staying on.

If you decide that they will not remain with you, and your employment contract is correctly worded, the notice period for a new employee is usually less than for someone who successfully completes a probation period. If they have to leave, you can quickly turn your attention to finding a better person to fill their role.

There is no legal requirement for using a probation period at the start of an employment contract. However, it is a very good way of making sure you get the right person for the job, after all the time and effort you put into the recruitment process. Just make sure that your employment contract explains all this and that you discuss the use of the probation period with anyone to whom you offer the job!

What’s the Best Way to Keep Your Staff Happy?

Happy employees make happy clients and customers. Here’s a check list of all the things you should be doing, to keep your staff – and therefore your clients and customers – happy. How many are you doing?

  • Improve their engagement with your company – low cost options include offering flexibility, the opportunity to buy or sell holiday and working from home
  • Cheer everyone up – buy them food at work
  • Give lots of praise – in public, if necessary
  • Recognise their achievements – a lot
  • Be reassuring (but realistic) about job security
  • Be flexible about working hours and opportunities to improve their work life balance
  • Be open, honest and involved with your team
  • Keep them in touch with all the news – good or bad
  • Keep up with employees training and development – it does not need to cost a lot. Don’t abandon development and new opportunities. Job training is perceived as a value
  • Develop your company culture – involve everyone in decisions and provide opportunities for staff who don’t normally work together to get to know each other
  • Offer chances to put forward suggestions – it could save you a fortune and it increases the sense of ownership and belonging
  • Provide regular team meetings to reinforce the company culture and beliefs
  • Think about using a promotion as a low cost way of improving self-esteem and self-worth
  • Treat everyone with respect – it doesn’t cost anything and it improves motivation.

How well did you score? What more could you be doing to keep your staff happy?

What’s the Difference Between Informal and Formal Appraisals?

This is a question I’m often asked by managers, so I thought I would answer it here.

A performance appraisal can occur in two ways – informally or more formally (or systematically.) Informal appraisals can be carried out whenever the supervisor feels it is necessary. The day-to-day working relationship between a manager and an employee offers an opportunity for the employee’s performance to be assessed. This assessment is communicated through conversation on the job, over coffee, or by on-the-spot examination of a particular piece of work. Informal appraisals are especially appropriate when time is an issue. The longer feedback is delayed, the less likely it is to encourage a change in behaviour. Frequent informal feedback to employees can also prevent surprises when the formal evaluation is communicated. However, you should make sure that they don’t become too informal – don’t be tempted to discuss an appraisal in the pub!

Although informal appraisals are useful, they should not take the place of formal appraisals. These are used when the contact between a manager and an employee is more formal. This could be when they don’t see each other on a daily, or even weekly basis. It requires a system to be in place to report managerial impressions and observations on employee performance.

When Should You Carry out Appraisals?

Appraisals typically are conducted once or twice a year, most often annually, near the anniversary of the employee’s start date. For new employees, common timing is to conduct an appraisal 90 days after employment, again at six months and annually after that. ‘Probationary’ or new employees, or those who are new and in a trial period, should be evaluated frequently—perhaps weekly for the first month and monthly thereafter until the end of the introductory period for new employees. After that, annual reviews may be sufficient.

Some managers prefer to meet with their employees more frequently. Some companies in high-technology fields are promising accelerated appraisals— six months instead of a year—so that employees receive more frequent raises. The result for some companies has been a reduction in turnover among these very turnover-prone employees.

A regular time interval is a feature of formal, systematic appraisals that distinguishes them from informal appraisals. Both employees and managers are aware that performance will be reviewed on a regular basis and they can plan for performance discussions. In addition, informal appraisals should be conducted whenever a manager feels they are desirable.

Should We Talk About Pay As Well?

Many experts say that the timing of performance appraisals and pay discussions should be different. The major reason for this view is that employees often focus more on the pay amount than on what they have done well or need to improve. Sometimes managers may manipulate performance appraisal ratings to justify the desired pay treatment for a given individual.

However you carry out appraisals – whether informally or formally – take some time to think about the pros and cons of the different options. This will help you implement the best process for the development of your business and your employees.

Workplace Pensions are Here – Act Now, it’s the Law

Even if you employ just one person, you must provide a workplace pension.

Small employers are being warned to act now to ensure they are ready to meet their new workplace pension duties which will soon apply to them.

All employers have a legal duty to automatically enrol certain staff into a workplace pension scheme by a deadline that is specific to them. Automatic enrolment is automatic for workers but not for employers.

It applies to all small businesses, even those with only one member of staff – from dry cleaners, to florists, to newsagents and pubs.

Around half of employers who had thought they would be ready to meet their duties on their staging date found that they were underprepared and had a last minute rush to get finished. Research by The Pensions Regulator has shown that 40% of really small employers (those with less than 4 workers) do not know their staging date.

It is vital you do not guess your staging date – use the staging date tool on The Pension Regulator’s website, which only takes a few minutes (you will need your PAYE).

The experience of thousands of employers who have been through the process now is that automatic enrolment takes longer than they expect to prepare for – the regulator recommends making a start 12 months beforehand.

Don’t get caught out. Start your preparation early.

Useful links:

Tools to get you started: www.tpr.gov.uk/employers/beginners-guide-to-auto-enrolment

The essential guide to automatic enrolment: www.tpr.gov.uk/ae-essential-guide

Find out your staging date: www.tpr.gov.uk/staging

Nominate a contact: www.tpr.gov.uk/nominate

Planning tool: www.tpr.gov.uk/planner

6 month checklist: www.tpr.gov.uk/six-month

Subscribe to TPRs news by email: www.tpr.gov.uk/subscribe

Or click here to download a PDF of the The Essential Guide to Automatic Enrolment from the Pensions Regulator.